DAYTON — While widespread pothole problems are typically a sign of spring, the extreme cold weather followed by melting snow and record warmth may take an early toll on Ohio roads with drivers paying a steep price. Melting snow and ice may disguise potholes as puddles, leaving the potential for extensive tire and vehicle damage.
Typically, potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in the formation of potholes. That’s when flat-tire roadside rescue calls to AAA spike. Every year, AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by potholes.
We aren’t even a month into winter and between dead batteries and now potholes, it can be an unusually costly season for drivers. On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage but depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle and the make of the tires, repairs could easily exceed $1,000.
According to a study by AAA on pothole damage, it costs US drivers about $15 billion in vehicle repairs over a five-year period, or approximately $3 billion a year.
And what’s worse than having a flat tire? Not having a spare. AAA research shows that automakers are eliminating spare tires from new vehicles. Nearly one‐third (28 percent) of 2017 model year vehicles do not come with a spare tire as standard equipment, creating an unnecessary hassle and expense for drivers.
Spare tires, an important feature missing from one-third of new vehicles sold, are critical for drivers affected by pothole damage. Tire inflator kits have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles for more than a decade now and, due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for pothole damage. Not only are tire-inflator kits not a good substitute for a spare tire, they can cost up to 10 times more than a tire repair and have a shelf life of only four to eight years. AAA has called on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of spare tires in new models.
“The tire is the most important cushion between a vehicle and a pothole,” says Jon Bucher, assistant manager AAA Tire & Auto, Beavercreek. “Unfortunately, a growing number of motorists are driving late model automobiles that have no spare tires, and sometimes motorists don’t know that until they experience a flat car caused by hitting a pothole. It’s a bad time to find out a third of new vehicles don’t have spares.”
To minimize vehicle damage from potholes, AAA offers the following tips:
Inspect Tires — Make sure tires are properly inflated and have a healthy tread. An underinflated or badly worn tire is more likely to suffer damage or allow the wheel or suspension to be damaged when hitting a pothole.
Look ahead – Make a point of scanning the road ahead for potholes. An alert driver is more likely to have time to avoid a pothole so limit distractions.
Slow Down – If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed safely without abrupt braking.
Beware of Puddles – Puddles often disguise deep potholes
Check Alignment – Hitting a pothole can knock wheels out of alignment and affect steering. If a vehicle pulls to left or right, have wheel alignment checked by qualified technician.
Recognize Noises/Vibrations – A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage the tire or wheel and even break suspension components. Any unusual noises after a pothole hit should be inspected immediately
When dealing with vehicle damage, it’s critical to select a high-quality repair facility such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) shop. Once a facility meets AAA’s high standards, including certifications, technical training, cleanliness, insurance requirements and background checks, it becomes part of the AAR program where it’s re-inspected annually and monitored for ongoing customer satisfaction. AAA members receive unique benefits, including priority service, a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, special discounts, free inspections, dispute resolution assistance and more. To find an AAR facility near you, visit AAA.com/Repair.
For more on how to prevent serious vehicle damage from potholes, motorists can visit AAA.com.